The biggest trail race in South Korea was a textbook example of the growth of the sport in that country, yet international runners took the top step on the podium in the main race of 59 km. South African star Ryan Sandes pulled out at the last moment with a hip injury that he sustained in training, and so the trail was open for Japan's top runner Ruy Ueda to deliver an outstanding performance. Ueda completed the hilly and tough course in a blistering 5:41:12. He was in a league of his own finishing nearly 40 minutes ahead of number two. In fact, two more Japanese runners completed the podium with Takeshi Doi overtaking Tomonori Onitsuka in the final stages to claim second place. Shimjae Dok, second last year, had to settle for fourth place. He was 41 minutes off the podium, which indicates just how quick the Japanese ran. Second Korean was Jisoo Kim. Al Telias from Philippines was one of the pre-race favourites, but he did not start.
The overall level of the women's race also went up a notch as last year's winner Yukari Hoshino had to see Marie McNaughton from New Zealand run away from her after an intense dual between the two. For a long time they were separated by not more than ten minutes, until McNaughton pulled away in the late stages to win by approx 25 minutes still. Sunghee Lee was the best of the local runners in third place - just like 12 months ago. Lee is last year's winner of UT Jeju in October and the female Korean Trail Master, finishing 8th in the 2016 ATM Championship. She had to fight for her podium place last Sunday, as her compatriot Jeong Sun Park was just over five minutes behind. Park, of course, is the winner of last year's ill-fated Ultra Trail Mount Jiri, ran in very wet conditions.
Importantly, Cheryl Bihag from Philippines finished the Korea 59k race as well, collecting another 188 points in already her fifth points finish of the ATM season! As such, she totals 1638 points and takes over the lead in the current Asia Trail Master points championship from Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid (1500 pts in 3 races). A well-deserved top spot for one of the most popular runners on the Asian circuit. For Cheryl, it will now be about consolidation and increasing her points tally further by doing better than the 188 points of Korea 50k, which by coincidence happens to be her smallest points haul of the season. As per ATM championship regulations, only a runner's best five results are taken into account for the ranking. This year, Cheryl has done Rizal Mountain Run 50, Beach Bunch Trail Challenge 100, Cordillera Mountain Ultra 50, Sungai Menyala Forest Trail 50 and thus Korea 59K.
MEN TOP 5
1. Ruy Ueda (JPN) 5:41:12
2. Takeshi Doi (JPN) 6:20:54
3. Tomonori Onitsuka (JPN) 6:30:39
4. Shimjae Dok (KOR) 7:11:39
5. Jisoo Kim (KOR) 7:33:55
WOMEN TOP 5:
1. Marie McNaughton (NZL) 7:42:32
2. Yukari Hoshino (JPN) 8:07:18
3. Sunghee Lee (KOR) 8:59:39
4. Jeong-Sun Park (KOR) 9:05:05
5. Bo Yong Jang (KOR) 9:22:23